The dos and don'ts of communicating with journalists

May 7th, 2019 BLOG

Positive media coverage can help with brand promotion. That’s just common sense. Look at the controversial Dr Oz effect—medicinal products mentioned on his show can see sales skyrocket up to 12,000%. Meanwhile, at Grammatik, we’ve seen traffic to client websites spike by thousands of visitors following coverage in Wired, VentureBeat, CNBC and other major outlets.

Yes, PR is a great way for little-known products and small businesses to increase their visibility. But as with most good things in life, achieving media coverage can be hard work. It takes time, patience, painstaking-research and a winning personality.

That’s why Grammatik has put together a ‘hit list’ of best practices to consider when communicating with journalists. Whether you’re sharing a press release or pitching a complex thought leadership idea, take a look at our top tips for maximum exposure.

Be newsworthy

There’s often a gap between what companies want to say and what journalists want to hear. A PR’s job is to bridge that gap to the best of their ability. You need to find the ‘hook’ for journalists. What makes a product or service unique? Is it current? Is it exclusive? Is it newsworthy?

When possible, use visual aids to drive interest (or auditory aids, for radio).

Don’t take that tone with me

When composing an email, pay attention to tone as well as content. Make sure your language is friendly, but respectful. And above all, do not be overly promotional or use flowery hyperbole. A journalist’s goal is to inform readers, not sell your product.

Specialist jargon is also a big ‘no’ when it comes to mainstream outlets. Imagine you are trying to promote a short animated film—most BBC journalists have likely never heard of modelling, compositing, rendering and other stages of production. Instead, save that language for trade press and media outlets who understand the appeal of complex creative processes, like Gizmodo or 3D World.

Keep it short, sweet, targeted and informative. And always include a call to action.

I know you...

Research is always more important than you think when it comes to a successful pitch. You shouldn’t only investigate the media outlet in question, but also specific topics a journalist has shown interest in—whether covered in a previous article or mentioned on social media. Once you’ve established a journalist's areas of interest, reference those topics in your pitch.

Be personable. Build relationships. And beware of ‘ritual’ (mass producing the same email over and over again).

It’s all about timing

No one wants to be caught with their pants down. Ensure you have enough time to thoroughly research, implement and secure potential coverage, avoiding the embarrassment of a last-minute press rush. Take a look at Grammatik’s typical timeline for an idea of best practice:

  • Begin research one-three months prior to launch day, looking into all possible avenues of coverage. From reviews to interviews, live demos and thought leadership, don’t rule anything out.
  • At one month, start preparing your press release. Get permission for quotes and leave a buffer of time for editing (and translation, if you need it).
  • At two weeks, send a brief outline to high priority targets under embargo. Use this opportunity to land exclusive interviews and give busy media outlets a chance to plan coverage.
  • On the day of launch, send the full press release to your targets and lift the embargo, keeping key timezones in mind. We find that the best time to send your press release is early in the morning—at 9:00 am to be exact—on Monday or Tuesday. The worst day to send any communications is on Friday… for obvious reasons (TGIF!).

Never give up (to a reasonable degree)

Have you ever heard of the saying “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”? Well, it’s good advice. Journalists are busy people—they don’t have time to read every single email that crosses their desks. A friendly nudge now and then can make all the difference when trying to get noticed.

Two follow ups, and a phone call for long-standing contacts, is our rule of thumb at Grammatik. Leave no stone unturned… but be polite about it!

Interested in working with us?

We’d love to hear from you.